2 faith leaders on Trump, racism and toning down incendiary rhetoric

AMNA NAWAZ: In times of division, people often
turn to faith leaders for guidance. Jeff Brown spoke to two such leaders about
how they see their roles in the current landscape of polarized politics. JEFF BROWN, PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: Some
faith leaders have been long-time forces in national politics and a number of evangelical
leaders have been vocal supporters of the current administration. Others tend to seek out what they consider
key moments. Late last month, leaders at the Washington
National Cathedral released a very direct public message labeled “A Response to the
President”. It reads in part: As faith leaders, we serve
at Washington National Cathedral, the sacred space where America gathers at moments of
national significance, we feel compelled to ask: after two years of President Trump's
words and actions, when will Americans have enough? One of its authors joins us now, Bishop Mariann
Budde leads the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.


Also with us to talk about the role of faith
leaders in this political climate, Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical
Seminary. Welcome to both of you. Let me start with you, Bishop Budde, why did
you decide to speak out and why now? BISHOP MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE
OF WASHINGTON: The country has become accustomed to speaking up each day to a daily barrage
of communication from President Trump via social media, often abusive, slanderous and
dishonest. These last few weeks, however, we felt that
he had crossed a threshold of rhetoric that had become dangerously racialized. First with his insults to the four women from
the House of Representatives, insinuating they did not belong in this country, and second
with his critique of Representative Cummings, spreading his attacks to the entire district
of Baltimore that he represents. We wanted to say two things. First, that this level of — this low level
of political discourse need not be our normal for America, and second, that the president's
words matter, and words such as the ones I cited have dangerous potential to encourage
others, both to speak and then to act with condoned violence.

That's why we spoke. JEFF BROWN: Richard Land, you have supported
the president on many policies. Do you distinguish the policies from what
Bishop Budde is referring to as a dangerous rhetoric? RICHARD LAND, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL
SEMINARY: Yes. You know, if you look at the polling, 8 2
percent of white evangelicals voted for President Trump, but if you talk to them, I would include
myself among them, probably 80 percent of that, 82 percent, were not voting so much
for the president as they were voting against Mrs. Clinton and against Mrs. Clinton's policies. And I think that distinction is made. In fact, I have told the president that he
was my last choice in the primary. I wince when I read the tweets. I have said, I wish that his Twitter had a
clutch and an editor.

JEFF BROWN: You wince, but Bishop Budde is
calling for something much stronger. I mean, why not speak out about the implications
or impact of such statements? RICHARD LAND: I disagree with a lot of the
interpretations of Reverend Budde. I think at this particular time, we need to
be as religious leaders not so much accusing people of racism or xenophobia as seeking
to talk to each other, not at each other, and not in an accusatory ways, and seeking
to lower the temperature and lower the rhetoric. I have condemned racism my whole life, and
by the way, I’m old enough that I have known real racists, and I know Donald Trump — and
he’s not a racist. JEFF BROWN: Bishop Budde, what’s your response? Is there not a tension in choosing to speak
out and take sides at a time when another alternative would be to speak in a way, as
Richard Land suggests, to try to bring people together, to lower the temperature? MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE: First of all, I would
say the president of late and indeed throughout his presidency has done almost everything
in his power to divide the country.

And while I understand and agree with Reverend
Land that we need to be talking respectfully with each other, in a sense, I feel as a white
American Christian leader that it's my responsibility and the responsibility of others to acknowledge
the damage that has been done and not just with the rhetoric, but with the policies themselves. You see the rise of white supremacist groups
who have complete freedom in their own mind to do what they say because of the president's
actions, and for him to come out afterward and to say that he does not condone hatred
is — it rings more than hallow. JEFF BROWN: Let me let Richard Land come in,
because it is true, Dr. Land, that you have never been shy about speaking out about policies. So, why make this distinction between speaking
out forcefully on policies that you believe in, but not speaking out and suggesting we
should tamp down when it's a question of rhetoric that, as we just heard, can have real implications? RICHARD LAND: Well, I said — I said that
people should tamp down the rhetoric on all sides, and by the way, I hold religious leaders
to a higher standard than I hold political leaders.

And I think religious leaders need to tamp
down the language. And the implication that people who support
Trump are racist. That’s — that is dangerous. It's inaccurate. And it's McCarthyism in reverse. It's projection of McCarthyism to say, if
you support Donald Trump and you support his policies, then you're being a racist. That you’re — it's implied that you're
a racist. That's simply not true, and I would hope the
people who are saying it know that it's not true. MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE: Well, I would like to
— may I say something? RICHARD LAND: I support Donald Trump primarily
because he has been pro-life. JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

Bishop Budde? MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE: I think there is a real
distinction between calling someone a racist, which is a personal viewpoint vis-a-vis another
person, and acknowledging that we have systematic racism in this country that works against
and keeps certain people out of the benefits that others have. JEFFREY BROWN: All right. MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE: And so, I am not calling
the president personally racist, but I would say that his policies and actions contribute
to the systematic racism of this country. JEFF BROWN: All right. I started with you, Bishop Budde. So, Richard Land, the last word? RICHARD LAND: Well, I would say, first of
all, yes, we have racism in this country, but we're a lot better than we were. And in terms of so-called racist policies,
the black unemployment rate is lower than it's ever been. The Hispanic unemployment rate is
lower than it's ever been. The president is doing enterprise zones in
inner cities, and he's done prison reform. JEFF BROWN: All right. Richard Land and Bishop Mariann Budde, thank
you both very much. RICHARD LAND: Thank you. MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE: Thank you both.

Thank you..